|Kylie and Fanta
Where would I be without Carlos? Probably having sold my mare and living in regret forever for selling her…
I have never been a mare person – each mare I have had or dealt with I have clashed with. But, of course, it was because they were mares… Right…? Nothing to do with me… Right??? And then Fanta came along….
Fanta is my medicine hat chestnut filly who was born while I was praying for a black and white colt to be born – but even though my past history with mares screamed NO, she was so gorgeous I couldn’t refuse her. As my husband informs me, “you always go for the pretty ones that challenge you – cant you buy a plain horse with less personality”. He is joking, of course, and adores our mare!
At one month old, Fanta knew how to bow; at 8 months old Fanta was the youngest participant at a clinic in Tasmania held by Carlos and stood at liberty on a tarp surrounded by cones while he cracked the stock whip around her – she did not blink an eye.
Over the years, until Fanta was two, we were lucky enough to do lessons with Carlos whenever he came to Tassie. Fanta was a brave, calm lady…. but then life changed! We moved to Victoria and nowhere near Carlos so our lessons ended. Fanta kept growing up and I came to realise that we were identical twins – but horse/human form…. Both stubborn, both like to have the final say, both like things to be done our way, both think we are right ALL of the time. But one thing Fanta had that I didn’t – she is certainly smarter than me! Carlos always said she has a big personality and will be a great horse…. Obviously I need to harness that personality for good rather than evil lol. Don’t get me wrong, Fanta is not evil in any way, but she reads you like an open book and knows how to flip that page to her advantage.
Unable to see Carlos, I went down the path of starting her myself during a horse starting clinic when she was three (having the personality she did, I felt this was a better option than sending her to someone else locally as I just didn’t trust anyone else with her). About two weeks later, due to unforeseen circumstances, Fanta ended up turned out for 18 months (part of this time was due to a hoof injury). Now it is 2012 and 19 months since anyone has been on her back. Fanta has been living the good life as the mare in her herd of three geldings, two of which think the sun shines out of you-‐know-‐where on her lol.
I started to play around with her and assess if I could re‐start her…. Straight away I could see I couldn’t; I am not silly and know my limitations. Fanta wasn’t happy with me standing in mounting position, she would turn, pull faces, bite etc. Once mounted, if we were heading in a direction she wanted she was semi‐ok; go another way, and it was a lot of head tossing, propping and threatening to rear. Knowing she was a horse you could not force to do anything I was lost as to how to work with her…. BUT by this stage thankfully we had moved again and I was only two hours away from Carlos. YAY! So the plan was get to get back to him regularly for help!
After ruling out any pain issues for the cause of her behaviour we headed down to Carlos for an assessment on Fanta, 2.5 years since we had our last lesson in Tasmania! I couldn’t wait. This session was basically an assessment to see where we were at and I was pleased that she displayed the behaviours I described, so I wasn’t imagining it.
The following weekend we headed back down for our first training session. What we discovered was Fanta had NO forward button at all – and I mean NONE. She planted those feet and refused to move, head tossed and threatened to rear. Carlos worked her calmly through this, did some more forward work on the ground then returned to the saddle. This took nearly the entire session to get ‘some’ forward and find a good point to finish on.
Not having a saddle for her at home at this stage and nowhere safe to ride it we agreed that, at this stage, I wouldn’t practice this at home and we would leave it on this good note to pick up on at the next session. The following week (lesson 2) we headed down again and she was SO much better – no grumpiness when mounting, more forward, less head tossing and she even offered a small trot! Once again, we left it on a good note and I decided I would also leave it again until the following session. I did not want to undo anything at home at this stage.
Lesson 3 was INCREDIBLE…. I cannot express the difference. It really hit home to me, seeing this lesson, that if you are working through things you do not need to practice it every single day or drum anything into the horse. It is the quality and not the quantity of time spent and knowing when to stop. With Fanta, you really need to get into her head to pick the right ‘finish’ time – especially if there is a chance you will set the horse back.
By lesson three, with me having done nothing with her in between, Fanta was forward on the ground, stood beautifully to be mounted, showed no signs of impatience, trotted happily around the arena and didn’t mind having the stockwhip cracked under saddle all around her. If that wasn’t enough, Carlos took the halter and rode her with only a rope around her neck all around the arena and some neck reining. Then, as a real test of trust, Carlos removed the rope and stood up on her with nothing on her head. She stood there beautifully – totally opposite to the horse I turned up with a mere two lessons ago. This was all achieved with calmness and patience… no telling off, no force or intimidation… Because of this, Fanta offered less resistance and progressed softly and calmly, which is what she and I both needed.
Just to recap, this was a horse who, two lessons prior (3hrs earlier), would not let you stand in a mounting position, or mount and she threatened to rear and refused to move forward on the lunge and under saddle. Yes, many people may say you could have got her forward with whips or spurs and I would say to those people right now, without a doubt in my mind, “not with this horse”. You couldn’t apply those methods to Fanta – she would have dumped you in the sand faster than you could blink. Fanta is an incredible horse with a strong, but amazing personality. The behaviours she displayed were my fault, built up from little signs I missed that she didn’t! This behaviour did not make her a bad horse, it just allowed her to decide what the rules were and I missed the point… As with my previous history with mares, my twin‐like personality Fanta was a challenge. With Carlos’ help, she is going to make me a better horseperson and a better person on this journey – a path I wouldn’t be able to follow if I didn’t have Carlos here to help guide us. I can’t thank him enough for what he is doing for her and for me! Without his help I certainly was heading down a path of decisions I would have come to regret.
Kylie & Fanta, July 2012
Photos of Fanta at her amazing third session – forward happy and trusting.